Got Rice?

Bunga Raya metes out a mediocre taste of Malaysia

The pathetic souls on Blind Date only get one shot with each other, but I give Bunga Raya another chance, coming back on another evening. I could cheat and order the more familiar items — satay chicken, deep-fried spareribs, teriyaki chicken or chicken lo mein. But Malaysian is the mission and, this time, dinner and I are a more compatible couple. It's not true love, but there's a chance we could be friends.

Nasi lemak is a jarring but compelling union of coconut rice, chili anchovies, egg, cucumber and peanuts that manages to be cool and spicy, sweet and tart. Fu-yu kangkung makes me want to visit the Asian market next door to the restaurant (it's closed for the evening) to pick up some of the dish's star ingredient, on-choy. The bitterish, mushroom/spinach-flavored green is stir-fried with shredded pepper in preserved bean curd sauce that's thin, slippery and mellow.

And forget rice — my new favorite starch is roti canai, an Indian pancake that's grilled golden and crispy/flaky like a croissant. I tear a strip, dunk it in accompanying chicken curry and savor every bit of the messy dish. This is more predictable curry, soaking chicken, red pepper and bay leaves in a milky broth. Too bad the poultry is so ugly, with muscle-bound gnarly knots of dark meat.

The Malaysian food at Bunga Raya won't bowl anyone over.
Erik Guzowski
The Malaysian food at Bunga Raya won't bowl anyone over.

Details

Hainanese chicken: $4.50
Beef rendang: $8.95
Roti canai: $2.75
Curry mee: $5.95

480-898-8222. Hours: Lunch and dinner, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

502 South Dobson, Mesa

Curry mee comes closest to my dream date. I've found a startlingly good dish that's light enough to get me through August's heat wave. It's a soup of curried chicken broth stocked with egg noodles, a loaf of deep-fried tofu, eggplant, minced fish dumplings and shrimp paste-stuffed chiles (red and green; the red blister my tongue).

Bunga Raya and I struck out. But I saw a new rice steamer the other day that looked pretty cute. I think I'll take it home with me and see how that turns out. Now who's the pathetic one?

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